Session 9: Cultural Connotations and Relations

5th Global Conference


Friday 9th March – Sunday 11th March 2012
Prague, Czech Republic

A New Ethics of Cultural Relations?: A Critical Evaluation of Postracial Humanism
Joshua Paul
Sociology Department, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK

This paper explores a contemporary debate on race which asks, can ‘race’, as a practical and theoretical concept, be dispensed with when it is perceived as socially real and has substantial material consequences? This debate and its central question are important as seemingly every aspect of social and political relations has become racially inflected. My paper examines a developing thread in these discussions, postracial humanism (Gilroy, 2000 & 2004). Recently, philosophers (Blum, 2002: Zack, 1993), sociologists (Gilroy, 2000; St Louis 2002) and historians (Roediger, 1994) have ethically scrutinized ‘race’ and called for its abolition. Some postracialists, those who support abolition, argue that ‘race’ imposes scripted identities and prevents the possibility of a creative life project (Appiah, 2007). Others maintain that identity is overdetermined by ‘race’, a category which is always-already ensnared in the ranking of moral, intellectual and cultural worth (Gilroy, 2000 & St Louis, 2002).

Post-racial humanism advocates the abolition of race and proclaims a new radical freedom of self through a renewal of the historical concept of humanism (Hill, 2001). It also claims to introduce a more creative view of humanity with the conceptual sophistication for appreciating the fluidity of identities that stress experiential plurality, multiple affinities and negotiated political associations. Through a principled estrangement from one’s own culture and history this humanism, adherents suggest, proves equipped to engage the complex dilemmas and opportunities presented by contemporary life.

My paper examines this bold move and explores two central problems. First, considering universalism and humanism partner ‘race’ in modernity, how can the human in this renewed category, be re-signified in a way that refutes its ethnocentric history? And, what will become of antiracism without the tried and tested concept of ‘race’? Drawing on research interviews with policy makers and activists, I will consider these two unexamined practical concerns.

Chasing the Wind: Satanism, moral panic and cultural change in white South Africa, 1989 – 1993
Danielle Dunbar
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

In 1989, the aged South African premier, P. W. Botha exited the political arena, as did the apartheid rhetoric of ‘total strategy’, which promoted the need to protect Western civilization in Africa. The floundering National Party, who had ruled since 1948, and the apartheid era were fading as the country moved towards the ‘rainbow nation’ of democracy. However, at times the attention of many white South Africans lay elsewhere, for it appeared that the Devil too was making a bid for the control of white South Africa. Amidst white politicking over the cultural guardianship of the white Afrikaner volk, wariness towards the effects of globalization and popular culture were funneled into the ‘holism peril’ of the New Age and the malignancy of Satanism. Conservative Christians battled the New Age and the ‘seeds of anarchy’ from the television to the cultural rebellion of a politicized white youth in the late 1980s. Simultaneously, rumours of midnight orgies, animal sacrifice, and infanticide by satanic cults prompted white politicians to warn against the unholy trinity of ‘drugs, Satanism and communism’. Between 1989 and 1993, white South Africa became convinced that a clandestine cult of Satanists was determined to cripple the nation. From the bizarre to the macabre, the message was one of social decay and a rebellious youth corrupted by the power of Satan and the nefarious influence of the New Age. Using the concept of the moral panic, this paper looks at a particular episode of ‘Satanic Panic’ in white South Africa during which social boundaries were sharpened, patrolled, disputed, and renegotiated through public debate and the media. This paper will argue that the moral panic over Satanism between 1989 and 1993, betrayed contextually specific anxieties surrounding cultural solidarity, power and morality whilst white South Africa’s social and geographic borders were in the process of transformation.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)

Asserting the Self: The Importance of Religion for Migrant Women in Black British Literature
Sabine Klinck
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany

It has been extensively argued that migrants coming from another culture are often considered as and even experience themselves as “other”. In the United Kingdom, especially, black migrants have had to face severe varieties of racism because of their skin colour. As has been pointed out by Gayatri Spivak and others, migrant women experience a double colonisation as migrants and as females who suffer from patriarchal structures on which their original culture but also the UK – at times – relies. Therefore, they often lack orientation and cannot find a place for themselves in the new society they live in. Drawing from examples of Black British female writers, my paper seeks to examine in how far religion, Christianity and Islam in particular, help migrant women orient themselves and settle in their new home.

Giving them advice, serving as an orientation and finding others who share their belief, religion provides those women with a set of rules they can adhere to and a basis for identification which they otherwise lack. Thus, the strong bonds they begin to establish with their religion do not necessarily deter them from British society as is commonly argued, but actually help them to strengthen their identity and thus to successfully find their place in society and integrate into it.

To prove my thesis, I will draw on examples from Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen, Leila Aboulela’s Minaret and The Translator as well as Shelina Zarah Janmouhammad’s Love in a Headscarf. Examining these novels of first and second generation immigrants, I will point out in how far religion is essential to the process of forming identities and the willingness to be part of society.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)